Just Another Memo Undermining Civil Liberties…

Sometimes liberty’s decline is a gradual thing, like a blindfolded woman slowly being led down a wide staircase, and sometimes it’s a bit more dramatic and overt, like a blindfolded woman being pushed off a cliff by a moustache-twirling vaudevillian. A Department of Justice memo uncovered and detailed last week by Newsweek hints that certain members of the Bush administration may have been aiming for the latter result in their ludicrous War on Terror.

According to Newsweek, the memo, sent from John Yoo — then a deputy attorney general at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Council — to White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s chief lawyer, William Haynes, essentially

gave the green light for the U.S. military to attack apartment buildings and office complexes inside the United States, deploy high-tech surveillance against U.S. citizens and potentially suspend First Amendment freedom-of-the-press rights in order to combat the terror threat.

The memo itself, which is titled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States,” shockingly advises at one point that “Military action might encompass making arrests, seizing documents or other property, searching persons or places or keeping them under surveillance, intercepting electronic or wireless communications, setting up roadblocks, interviewing witnesses or searching for suspects,” and also that “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.”

Newsweek reports that the content of the memo was so extreme that it was subsequently “essentially” revoked, but not until seven years after being written.

It’s frightening but unsurprising that the voices suggesting such blatant encroachment on our civil liberties were tolerated by the Bush administration. As the dust surrounding the practices of the previous administration settles, more and more people will begin to see exactly how easily a fear-mongering government can justify violating what were supposed to be our guaranteed rights. As Dr. Paul says, “The war on terror has awakened more Americans than ever to the way government exploits fear, and even its own failures, to justify eroding our civil liberties.”

Read the rest of the Newsweek story here.

Read the 37-page memo here (PDF).

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